Is snark dead?

Apologies in advance if this is even less coherent than usual…the amount of antihistamines that I’m on right now makes it difficult to open my eyes fully, let alone form thoughts.

Can you just imagine how different reading Shooting War would be if McCain had won? At its time of publication, I can understand why so many reviews called it “prescient” or “prophetic.” As it is, reading it is like reading a weird mirrorworld version of American history. Still relevant? I have a feeling that Shooting War would be better known if McCain had won.

I had a lot of issues with Shooting War and its characters-the slacker-makes-good technophile, unhinged, trigger-happy Army thugs with menacing nicknames, the slutty foreign journalist, and of course, the Muslim correspondent who helps Jimmy discover what’s really important. Lappe and Goldman’s characterization of Sameera just seemed like they were plugging in a Magical Arab. I think the overall shallowness of the graphic novel really lessened its impact.

In contrast, In the Shadow of no Towers seemed more invested in asking (but not answering) the really difficult questions that no one wanted to raise, or felt they could raise, in 2001. As Speigelman’s muddled narrative makes clear, there aren’t really any easy answers. I think one of Speigelman’s most effective points was the treatment of Americans who disagreed with the United States’ global response after 2001. Katha Pollit wrote a really moving article about not letting her teenaged daughter put an American flag up after 9/11 in The Nation. Below is the link if anyone wants to read it.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011008/pollitt

In Pollitt’s collection of essays, Virginity or Death, she wrote about the response to her article. Several conservative blogs and pundits responded to it by publishing Pollitt’s address and encouraging people to send American flags to her child. She got a lot of hate mail and death threats, some pornography, and one of those little 99 cent paper flags on a wooden dowel that you can get at the gas station. It was made in China. Pollitt wrote that this was a more valuable lesson than anything she could have taught her daughter. I think people responded to harshly to Pollitt’s article because she insisted on bringing up what no one wanted to talk about, specifically the fact that many of the current regimes in the Middle East were installed with U.S. support.

Soooo….in light of what’s happened since Shooting War was published, is it still relevant? Helpful? A frightening look at what might have been? Do the reviews of the novel that call it “preachy” and overly politicized have anything to do with how poorly movies like Stop Loss and Lions for Lambs performed at the box office?

Paper Cut.

Paradoxically, I quite liked and enjoyed this book while at the same time having a lot of issues with it. Susanna and Sarah kind of beat me to the punch with their excellent posts, but I agree with Susanna’s highlighting of the misogynistic elements of the story, particularly the treatment of Mexican women who choose to form relationships with European men. I have often felt that postmodernist works have gotten a free pass on misogyny in their text (and I’m not implying that the authors are by extension misogynist, I’m just looking at textual evidence) because of the concept that misogyny is somehow dated or irrelevant to postmodernist writing-that is has somehow moved “past” misogyny. 

I also have some issues with the term “magical realism” but I think that might be more the clumsy handling of the term that I heard in other classes. I also feel like there’s been a sort of limiting categorization of Latin American literature-given that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is still probably the best known and selling Latin American author in English-as inextricably linked with magical realism. Of course, part of this is due to the limited availability of translated works. I take exception to Flores’ claim at the end of his article that “Latin America is no longer in search of its expression, to use Henriquez Urena’s felicitious phrase-we may now claim  that Latin America now possesses an authentic expression, one that is uniquely civilized, exciting, and…perennial” (Flores 192). I’m automatically skeptical about any claim of an “authentic voice.” Earlier, Flores claims that magical realists “do not cater to a popular taste…logically conceived [plots],” and makes a number of other assertions about magical realist writers that I think are open to debate. Of course, I think that part of this may be due to when Flores article was written-before the advent of discourse about postcolonialism, postmodernism, marginalized voices, etc. and I think this is reflected in the language of his article. 

I do think that postcolonial theory (which is starting to finally incorporate elements of postmodernism, rather than taking an oppositional position) applies to several aspects of the book, most notably the relationships mentioned above and by Susannah earlier. There are other, more oblique references to colonialism-Cameroon and, well, Cameroon being one of the most obvious examples-but also in the relationship between Mexico and America and the flower pickers/flower corporation-perhaps not strictly colonialism but capitalistic colonialism (for example, the flower corporation’s appropriation of El Monte’s water supply is a really interesting passage). 

I looked up some mythology about the planet, hoping that I would find something revealing about Plascencia’s choice of Saturn, but only found Greek, Roman, and some Hebrew myths. I’m interested if anyone has insight into Latin American planetary mythology and whether that might have something to do with his choice.

Help.

I found Adams’ article, “The Ends of America,” really helpful in my (still feeble) attempts to form a working definition of postmodernism. She seems very confident in her definition of what we’ve admitted is a slippery category: postmodernism as the “dominant form of avant-garde literary experimentalism during the Cold War, a period marked by the ascendance of transnational corporations, the upheavals of decolonization, fears of nuclear holocaust, and the partitioning of the globe into ideological spheres” (Adams 2). Here, Adams is referring to the sixties through the late eighties (I would say it coincides with the formation and then fall of the USSR). However, stuff like the “upheavals of decolonization, fear of nuclear holocaust, and the portioning of the globe into ideological spheres” is sounding an awful lot like what’s going on today (I asked someone who lived through the Cuban missile crisis why they thought we don’t seem particularly concerned about the prospect of countries like North Korea or Pakistan getting nuclear weapons, and they said they think it’s because our generation has never had that much faith that the world wasn’t going to end, so there didn’t seem a point to panicking. I think they’re right.).

 

So anyway. If Adams is arguing that postmodernism was a reaction to the “containment culture of Cold War America,” (Adams 1) it would seem that the postmodern “moment” is over, as the particular historical moment that postmodern was a reaction to is more or less over as well. If so, I’d have to say that postmodernism seems to me to be the quickest-passing literary “moment” I’ve ever studied. (Is it possible that literary eras are speeding up? Why do I have to use so many parentheses?) Anyway, Adams argues that books like Tropic of Orange (and I would say also The Magical Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death-there I go again with the goddamn parentheses) are not postmodern per se but post-postmodern, or, in her terms, a reaction to the globalization of American literature. But do we agree that postmodernism has passed as its historical moment has passed?

 

But moving on, I thought I’d write a bit about my final paper and the issues I’ve been having and hopefully elicit some opinions and comments from other people. I wanted to take the discussion about Beloved and sort of run with it-I’d have to say it felt like the one book on the list that had the most to quibble about whether or not it was postmodern. But now I’m starting to feel like Oedipa, because it seems that each article or book I read just sends me ping-ponging from one position to the other. I’d like to make the argument that Beloved is a uniquely postmodern book. Here, Adams gives her list of what makes a postmodern work postmodern: “dark humor, themes of paranoia, skepticism, and conspiracy, preoccupation with close reading and textuality, and complex formal experimentation…[postmodern works] can be historicized as a response to and reaction against…the containment culture of Cold War America” (Adams 1). Given that Beloved has nary a nuclear reactor or conspiracy theory in sight, and it takes place in a history as yet untouched by the Cold War, is it still a postmodern novel?

 

Well, Adams goes on to write of Pynchon as the definitive postmodern author, citing his “preoccupation with paranoia and conspiracy, radical skepticism about foundational truth and authority of all kinds, deft mixing of genres, distrust of received historical knowledge, and confrontations with the sublime and apocalyptic” (Adams 3). Leaving out the paranoia and conspiracy part, I think a case could be made that Morrison’s work exhibits the same characteristics

Art is not a mirror. Art is a hammer.

I’m glad we got assigned this particular article, because as I was reading DeLillo I couldn’t help thinking of Easten Ellis and wondering, what is it with these guys and terrorists? What’s the appeal?

I was also wondering if anyone felt the same way about Mao II in terms of “datedness” or the novel showing its age or feeling very much of its time period as we mentioned in connection to The Female Man. In several places I feel as though DeLillo is eerily prescient.

Mark Osteen raises a number of really interesting points. In particular, I found his argument that DeLillo is conferring more value onto Brita than Bill Gray (who, according to Osteen, is a sort of version of DeLillo himself). Or perhaps “more value” is not the right term, but indicating that Brita is less deluded than Gray and more realistic, especially in her understanding and “buying in” of her role as a photographer, as opposed to Gray’s futile struggle against his own role in consumption.

But back to the terrorists. Osteen writes about the necessity of media for terrorists-terrorists need the media, otherwise who are they terrorizing if they don’t have publicity? Which reminds me of the various accusations leveled against both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, accusing them of, among other things, deliberately staging situations of civilians, particularly children, getting killed by soldiers, or moving civilian corpses onto bombing sites to inflate death tolls.

So I was struck by Brita’s bravery and her certainty that she wouldn’t be harmed as she photographed Rashid and his followers in Beirut. Brita fulfills a need the terrorists have which Jean-Claude doesn’t, as evidenced by his sale to the unnamed fundamentalists. Without Bill Gray’s participationg, Jean-Claude is rather useless to their organization (although that’s probably little comfort to the prisoner in the cell, with whom my sympathies lie).

Moving on, I’m interested in questioning why DeLillo chose these particular moments-the Sheffield disaster, Khomeini’s funeral-as examples of this paradigmatic shift, of the “future belonging to crowds.” Why Sheffield?

Although I think there’s certainly no question that this novel is a postmodern work, I was also struck by the lack of textual experimentation that we have come to associate with postmodernism. Of course, DeLillo does insert the pictures that delineate the different parts of the novel, the narrative of the text itself is rather more straightforward and less experimental than I was expecting.

I wonder if anyone else experienced feeling a link between Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Abu Rashid. It seems that both articulate a remarkably similar idea about crowd consciousness and how to exploit it. Rashid explains his philosophy behind his appeal to his child-militia: “We teach them identity, a sense of purpose…all men one man. We teach that our children belong to something strong and self-reliant…no martyrs here. The image of Rashid is their identity” (DeLillo 233). This parallels the child/parent dynamic of Moon and his followers and the purposeful dissolution of an individual identity into an identity that is dependent on a group for existence. During the wedding, Karen’s father desperately hopes that she will retain her “grids of pinpoint singularities” even as the Master “unburdens them of free will and independent thought” (DeLillo 7). I feel like going any further with this right now will get me bogged down in arguing for/against the very existence of the possiblity of independent thought (in my opinion, impossible) but it might be an interesting jumping-off (literally) point.

Postmodernism versus history?

For some reason I’m feeling extra nitpicky about this article.

First of all, if one were looking for a book that broke the pattern of what we’ve read so far, I’d have to say Beloved would be it. The narrative isn’t particularly fragmented (at least in the sense of point of view) and it doesn’t have any of the aesthetic experimentation of other postmodern works. There’s also a conspicuous lack of disaffected youth, sex, encounterrs with technology, deliberate attempt to shock, and navel-gazing. But then I’ll admit that I’ve never really thought of Morrison as a postmodern writer.

Of course, this goes back to our discussion at the beginning of class about what, exactly, defines postmodernism-aesthetics? or era? Aside from what she has to say about Morrison’s writing, Davis has some interesting arguments to make about postmodernism’s interaction with history. Davis starts out with Jameson, Baudrillard, and Fukuyama’s argument about postmodernism’s disbelief in teleological narratives (but I think if you’re going to be disagreeing with the above, you’d better pack your lunch and plan to stay awhile).

Davis argues that the basis for excluding Morrison from the postmodernist canon is the interaction with history in her work, but that this exclusion isn’t defensible. I would agree that postmodernism has a queasy relationship with history-I think this is perhaps what gives postmodernism it’s “depthlessness”-but at the same time, escaping history is nearly impossible (and the tendency for literature to become “dated,” as we mentioned in connection with The Female Man, is perhaps the basis for postmodernism’s failure to untangle itself from history). So is it possible for a writer to engage with history and still be postmodern? Well, maybe not-after all, Davis herself writes: “postmodern theories need to be modified to accomodate texts like Beloved with an overt agenda of political protest” (Davis 257).

But I’m not sure I agree with her. After all, Morrison calls herself an “antipostmodernist” and it seems disingenuous to argue that she is in fact a postmodernist, especially if doing so would require stretching postmodernist theory (not to say that the argument couldn’t be made). BUT STILL.

Aside from that, Davis makes a few other arguments that kind of bother me. Davis writes: “A rigid demarcation between postmodern texts and African American texts merely perpetuates a false dichotomy of academic theory and social protest, ignoring that they emerged in response to a similar set of lived conditions” (Davis 244). First of all, I think it’s harder to define “African American texts” as a category than merely declaring it texts written by African-American authors. But that aside, earlier Davis claimed to share Barbara Christian’s reservations about “the increasingly popular move to read Morrison’s fiction through the lens of postmodernism, poststructuralism, or “white” academic theory” (Davis 243). I don’t think that looking at Morrison as a postmodernist author “underestimates the crucial importance of Toni Morrison’s black cultural heritage,” to use Davis’ own words, but at the same time, I don’t find a mutual exclusivity between feminist and African American texts and postmodernism. Davis goes on to write: “feminist and African American critics have often dismissed postmodernism’s philosophical questioning of foundationalism and essentialism as being incompatible with their sociopolitical criticism,” but I would argue that Russ’ work fits elegantly into both categories (Davis 244). Rather, I feel that squashing a writer like Morrison into so narrow a box is a greater loss.

So finally-is Beloved a postmodern work or not?

Harlequin romances equilvalent to Mills & Boon?

That might be the funniest thing about this article.

I read an earlier essay version of this chapter in a feminist criticism anthology for a class last semester, so it was interesting to see how Haraway changed her approach from the essay to the chapter.

I think one of the challenges to reading this chapter is getting a handle on Haraway’s envisioning of cyborgs. Haraway writes: “by the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism: in short, we are hybrids” (Haraway 150). I don’t think that Haraway is talking about literal cyborgization (although that’s becoming more a reality, in particular I’m thinking of the new prosthetic limbs developed by military medical researchers that are controlled by electrical pulses in the remaining muscle tissue) but more about the way we function and utilize machines. However, I think Haraway’s essay needs to come with a few more caveats. It seems to me that Haraway’s envisioning of the cybernetic/cyborg future is an extremely limited one in terms of really only applying to certain societies, namely Western/technologically integrated ones. I think it is an overgeneralization to claim that there is a universal cyborgization of global society.

That being said, Haraway has some fascinating things to say about “women’s work.” She points out the global changes in employment/industrial trends and how the global workforce is becoming increasingly “feminized.” I think this is useful to discuss in counterpoint to Russ’ book because of the conflict between Janet’s idea of work (on Whileaway everything is of necessity women’s work) to the ideas about employment expressed by Jeannine and Joanna.

What I found rather ironic was the juxtaposition of Haraway’s assertion that “there is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds us” (Haraway 155) and her argument that earlier feminists’ eagerness to create a universalizing feminism was actually totalizing contrasted with the dedication in Russ’ book: “this book is dedicated to Anne, to Mary, and to the other one and three-quarters billions of us.” Still, I would argue that even if the drive to create a universal or “global” feminism (for which, of course, Western educated and largely white middle/upper middle class women would serve as the spokespersons) is in fact imperialist, it was mostly born out of political necessity-a movement that lent itself to getting coopted by other groups for other means and ultimately capitalized upon.

But going back to The Female Man, one thing I’m very interested in discussing is why Russ structures the book the way she does? This sort of narrative-slippage and constant digression seems rather typical of the postmodernist literary aesthetic now, but I imagine that it was rather revolutionary (or at least less expected) at the time of its publication. So why would Russ structure the book as what seems to be a series of argument and exchanges between the four characters rather than a linear narrative?

But does it come with Bluetooth?
But does it come with Bluetooth?

It also apparently manifests peanut butter.

I got to finish the book this week, which was great-although I think this is definitely a book I will have to read and reread, and then do it again, to pick up stuff I missed. Reading Johnny Truant’s mother’s letters was really a revelation-I think it makes a lot of sense to put those in the back of the book, because it made me sort of rethink the way I was approaching JT’s character. He’s pretty easy to write off in the first parts of the book, until it become apparent that however much of a screw-up he may be, he’s pretty smart and talented. His mother’s letters make it clear that her character is incredibly intelligent and well-read (despite being batshit insane). Though I have to say I’m getting weary of this trope of sticking every disaffected and underestimated character in a tattoo parlor (what says screw-up but ultimately talented antihero? I know-make him work in a tattoo parlor!). It would make more sense to have made him a hedge-fund manager. Also, I think I found a Thomas Pynchon reference on page 110, “Playwright Taggert Chiclitz.” I think that was the name of a minor character in Lot 49. (Coupled with Charles Huston’s reference to Genghis Cohen-is it a rule that postmodern writers have to include a Pynchon reference somewhere in their book?)

Anyway, I’ve been poking around the forums on the House of Leaves website, and looking at the entries here, the question that keeps popping up seems to be, so what? What is the purpose, and does it matter? Obviously I have no answer, but I think it’s interesting that that seems to be the source of a good deal of underlying frustration with this work.

I found an interesting link (actually, several) on YouTube for a trailer for a nonexistent movie of House of Leaves (sound familiar?). This one in particular is pretty well-done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyug0q9eyqw&NR=1

It’s generated some discussion on how people feel about turning the book into a movie. There’s also a bunch of links to interviews or readings by MZD (and even some trailers people made for the book itself-has youtube made genre obsolete?).

I think the most interesting thing about encountering this book for me has been the vast amount of stuff on the Web about it. I normally don’t do much background digging when I read a book, particularly a fiction one, but I started to when I began reading China Mieville’s stuff (there’s so much background knowledge that plays into his work linguistically that I needed a much larger vocabulary) and now with MZD. Particularly with MZD, there’s an incredible amount of interplay between different media forms regarding this book-the YouTube trailers, discussion forums, even a band called House of Leaves (myspace.com/houseofleaves) (I think they kind of suck but whatever) and it has made me really start redefining the concept of reading a book, because this isn’t a book you can really just read, which I think may have been exactly what MZD was going for-maybe that’s the answer to the so what? question.

Oh, and the book generates its own peanut butter-several pages in mine are stuck together with it, and I don’t eat peanut butter.

The Inside-Your-Outside Machine

House of Leaves has given me a lot to think about. Firstly, I see a kinship between the monstrous house and the book. The book is in a sense bigger inside than its outside, most obviously in the reams and reams of footnotes and the constant references to sources and people and art that exist outside of the book. It shares a lot of the aesthetic conceits we’ve seen in other postmodern works, namely, the cobbling together of difference voices and pieces of writing, the use of an interrupted format, the presentation of itself as a puzzle, and the voice of Truant that constantly jerks us out of the other narratives and brings us to Truant’s present, forcing us to share it with him, along with his difficulties regarding Zampano’s text. It reminds me of a hypertext article on the Internet, where every highlighted word brings you to another work, and theoretically that can proceed infinitely, from link to link to link without end.

The critical texts both deal with space, and as such remind us that we are dealing with a space that is breaking all of the rules. Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces” argues that we are living in a particular age with a particular relationship to space that is not the same as the ages that proceeded it and hypothically will not be the same as the ages that come after. Foucault writes: “These are opposition that we regard as simple givens: for example between private space and public spave, between the space of leisure and that of work. All these are still nurtured by the hidden space of the sacred” (Foucault 23). Yet Navidson’s placement of the Hi-8 cameras throughout the house collapses these distinctions. We can take this a step further with the Internet and the idea of simultaneously living “private” lives while also living the same life simultaneously in the most public and anonymous way possible. (In fact I think that cyberspace might be the metaphor in examining these works).

I found Jean Baudrillard’s piece much harder to understand (in contrast I’ve always thought that Foucault has a singularly clear way of writing) but I was also fascinated by his description of religious and religious iconography as one way of looking at the idea of simulacra. Having attended a Baptist church for a number of years, I heard many sermons on why the Baptist cross is an empty cross as opposed to the occupied Catholic crucifix-the argument being that Jesus was not in fact on the cross anymore, and portraying him thus in a sense “weakened” him. Really a ridiculous argument after a fashion but it aligns perfectly with Baudrillard’s argument about the substitution of the simulacrum for the real. The argument about Disneyland didn’t resonate quite so much as I’ve never been there and therefore have to imagine it, but his point that it is “meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the “real” world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere” (Baudrillard 172). In a sense then, are the adults pretending to be adults pretending to indulge their childishness when in fact they are pretending to be what they are already? And how does the idea of the simulacra relate to House of Leaves?

While this article leaves me with more questions than answers, it’s particularly helpful to use this paradigm to look at economic and political systems. I think it has a particular relevance today, when we are learning exactly how ephemeral, even imaginary, our concept of wealth has become-the vanishing of imaginary dollars that may never have existed in the first place, or the concept of “value” that fluctuates wildly and is completely divorced from any tangible value in the first place.

An Unimaginative Use of Tapioca.

I quite like Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. The breathless narrative and endless lists of little fiddly things-stamps, letters, bits of graffiti-are quite appealing. Moving through the book gives me a sense of gradually sliding out of control, the slow development of a paranoia in which one starts to distrust one’s own perceptions when it begins to seem that the scheme (or swindle) that one is caught in is ultimately too big to see as a coherent whole. In that sense it reminds me of Ellis’ Glamorama at the point where even mundane objects-confetti, a black hat, a stick-on tattoo-become objects of dread and signals of a large system. The protagonist’s perception becomes more and more faulty as objects-photographs, pornographic videos-are manipulated to create a “reality” that is false but can’t be argued with.

Michael Holquist makes some interesting points in his “Whodunit and Other Question.” I find his inclusion of Poe in the canon of detective stories very fascinatingl; I wonder if he would also admit H.P. Lovecraft into the same group? But the question is, what does this have to do with postmodernism and Pynchon? Earlier we spoke about whether postmodernism was a break from modernism or a continuation (evolution?) of modernism. Holquist writes that “post-modernism…can best be understood as springing from a different view of man, and therefore a different view of art from that which obtained in Modernism” (Holquist 147). I suppose this can be taken as Holquist’s assertion that postmodernism is more of a break with moderning (or a perspective shift) than a continuation. Holquist goes on to say that postmodernism is “about things, not people” and mentions the 1930s “murder classics” by Wheatley and Links and The Voyeur as examples. I suppose an argument could be made for Pynchon’s novella that links it with Holquist’s argument, using the obsessive minutiae of objects in the book.

One thing that stood out for me particularly is the gradual revelation of how enmeshed Oedipa is in the unfathomable plan of Inverarity’s, the feeling that she cannot figure it out because she cannot get outside of it enough to do so, of being caught in a possibly malevolent system. The “clues” which we might expect to help us start unraveling the mystery only serve to further complicate matters. There is a sort of “meta” feeling I get when reading this novella and making connections to things mentioned in the novel with things outside of the novel, then eventually feeling as though I’m becoming paranoid along with Oedipa (for example-Maxwell’s Demon and “The Ballad of Maxwell Demon” from the fictionalized biopic of a character based on David Bowie in Velvet Goldmine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1y_PRuq7x0). The novella greatly puts me in mind of China Mieville’s short story “The Go-Between” from Looking For Jake, and Holquist’s article also brings Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald”-really a stylistic mash-up-from Fragile Things to mind.

Holquist and Fredric Jameson both seem to put the burgeoning of postmodernism at roughly the end of the 1950s/beginning of the 1960s. Jameson also raises the question of whether postmodernism should be viewed as a break or a continuation of modernism, although from what I understand he presents both positions as plausible but mentions that the latter view does not “take into account the social position of the older modernism” (Jameson 56). Jameson also makes an interesting assertion that postmodern global culture  in the “superstructural expression of a whole new wave of American military and economic domination throughout the world” (Jameson 57). Given that we have recently seen a rather dramatic re-structuring of the existing economic system and are poised at the brink of an unprecendented level of reorganization of the American economic system in particular, does this alter Jameson’s argument at all? Or are these changes rather superficial? Or is this possibly the sign that we are actually moving into the post-postmodern era? I do wonder about Jameson’s claim on page 57 that the “offensive features” of postmodernism have become institutionalized-I suppose he’s right-but I don’t consider a strong reaction to something an indication that the point has been missed; I don’t think the two positions have to be occupied simultaneously.

Week One Post: Responses to Short Stories and Journal Articles

After reading and rereading this week’s journal articles and short stories, I started looking for similarities-not necessarily similarities in content, but similarities in “feel”-to see if any of the pieces made me feel like they were linked. As we discussed in class, the question of what exactly constitutes a postmodern piece of writing is still rather fuzzy. Personally, it’s always made more sense to me to talk about literary genres more in terms of stylistics than era (meaning that I would respond to a Gothic novel written recently as a Gothic rather than a postmodern novel, while still acknowledging the work’s context). I also tried to compare the pieces to the different postmodern artifacts we looked at it class.

The first piece, John Cage’s “Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)” is, I think, the most obvious piece just in terms of how it’s constructed, with the varying fonts, lines, and split-up occurrences that don’t seem to have an ending or a point. In this piece, the aesthetics of the work itself seem to have as much of an impact as the content, by which I mean the piece would read (or “feel”) very differently if it was presented, for example, with traditional margins and all in the same font. Similarly,  Ihab Hassan’s POSTmodernISM has a very conscious style or format that greatly impacts how the work is read-text as object and not merely content.

Looking at the short stories as an aggregate group, I think the first thing that stood out to me is the element of something unsettling or something that doesn’t “fit”-that forces you to stop and think or retrace your step as it jars you out of the rhythm of reading. Jonathan Safran Foer’s piece does that purposefully with his symbols that indicate a certain feeling or emotion as they stand in for something that cannot necessarily be conveyed through text. (How would one write a willed silence?) Jonathan Lethem’s “Super Goat Man” introduces a unbelievable character into an otherwise realistic piece, and then demands the reader’s acceptance of the believability of  Super Goat Man in these otherwise banal surroundings. The strangest thing for me in Kelly Link’s “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” is not the zombie plans or the presence of the zombies in the text, but the painting that seems to have come from nowhere.

Don DeLillo’s piece reminds me of Brett Easton Ellis (although it would be more fair to write that the other way): all surface and very brittle, like a sheet of caramelized sugar. (I would appreciate a trigger warning before texts with content like DeLillo’s.) I found it interesting that the figures in DeLillo’s piece seem concerned mostly with aesthetics-surfaces and appearances-than ideology (the attention to their clothing, the wish for a “black militant” on page 10). In this piece, I think DeLillo takes particular expectations and refuses to fulfill them, in favor of a facile piece that, in its very shallowness, reveals the emptiness of the characters’ actions.

Finally, I suppose I can say that if a pattern emerged for me, it was the pattern of something unsettling or “out of place” that I mentioned before. The best example that I can think of off the top of my head of other authors who achieve this same effect is the poet Frederick Siedel, although I’m not sure if I can confidently say that I’m any closer to understanding how to classify things as postmodernist.